The long-expected demise of Philadelphia's Blue Horizon finally came last week, when Pennsylvania governor Tom Corbett green-lit a $6 million state grant to redevelop the iconic boxing hall into a hotel-restaurant. The 1,500-seat venue had been a fistic mecca on North Broad Street for decades, widely considered the best place in the country to see a fight. But the dwindling frequency of shows at the rickety three-story row house slowed to a trickle after longtime Philly promoter J. Russell Peltz stopped regularly booking the room in 2001. Mounting property taxes led the current owners to put it up for sale in 2007, and the last fights were held on June 4, 2010.
Built in 1865 as three separate mansions and transformed into a single cavernous lodge in 1912, the Blue opened its doors to boxing in 1961 and operated as a sort of club-level farm system for Madison Square Garden and other top arenas. Among the future world champs to climb through its ropes were Matthew Saad Muhammad, Meldrick Taylor, Tim Witherspoon, Arturo Gatti and Bernard Hopkins.
From the sculpted moose head over the front door to the signature balcony, from which fans could reach down and nearly touch the fighters, the Blue conjured the era before pro boxing left cities for the casinos. With it goes one of the last links to the sport's golden age.